Do NOT tell you’re family that you’re making Pumpkin Pasta! Seriously. If my family, who are reasonably open to trying new things, is any indication, Pumpkin Pasta will not be well received, at least until they taste it! Then, you won’t believe the number of compliments it receives. My theory is that we are so “pumpkin spice” brainwashed, it never occurs to us pumpkin is actually a healthy vegetable.
The truth is pumpkin doesn’t have a strong flavor. What we usually associate as pumpkin is all the warm spices used to zhoosh it up. In this dish, the creaminess of the pureed pumpkin takes on a savory palette. Adding coconut milk (or half & half), a little tomato paste with some seasoning, and veggie broth makes a creamy/dreamy, delicious sauce. Pumpkin transforms pasta into something special with a bright burst of green from fresh spinach and the nutty crunch of toasted walnuts. No one will guess that the secret ingredient is pumpkin!
I haven’t even mentioned that this is vegan! Unfortunately, it’s not keto-friendly, and those pasta carbs are not low in calories — although using whole wheat pasta does help. That said, the pumpkin, spinach, tomato, and walnuts pack all sorts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and good stuff! The creaminess comes from coconut milk, a vegan alternative for Half & Half (which you can use if you prefer).
I like using spiral pasta (any variety) for this dish, but shells, bowties, tubes (ziti or rigatoni), or even macaroni will all work. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. If you put the water on at the same time you start making the sauce, it all times out really nice.
5 minute prep!
There isn’t much prep involved. The walnuts need to be toasted, which only takes a couple of minutes in a small dry skillet or saute pan over medium heat. The garlic needs mincing before you start cooking. If you are a garlic fan, go ahead and add a few more cloves!
Depending on how you buy your spinach, it may need to be washed and trimmed. I buy the pre-washed & trim packages, so it’s ready to go. Baby spinach is best, but regular spinach works too. If you like spinach, feel free to double the amount in the recipe. The sauce will easily accommodate the additional amount.
10 minutes to cook!
Start by sauteing the garlic in a heated large skillet with olive oil. You want to cook it just until it becomes fragrant. Garlic can burn quickly, so watch your heat and have your tomato pasted measured and ready to add. Whisk in the paste, pumpkin, and coconut milk until smooth.
Gradually pour in the broth and add the seasonings and nutmeg. Give the sauce about five minutes to cook over low heat. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach wilts, about a minute or so.
Stir in the pasta and sprinkle on the walnuts. I like a zing of heat, so I add an optional sprinkle of crushed red pepper. To each their own! This pasta is hearty enough to be the main course, or it will make a beautiful holiday side dish. This is a perfect weekend meal as it’s so fast and easy. It’s also will WOW guests when served at a fall dinner party. Just don’t tell anyone it’s pumpkin until they give you compliments and ask for more!!
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Spinach and Toasted WalnutsCourse: Main, SidesCuisine: Vegan, PastaDifficulty: Easy
Pumpkin takes on a new flavor profile when cooked into a creamy sauce with fresh spinach, served with pasta with toasted walnuts. Vegan-friendly, nutritious and delicious!
8 ounces spiral pasta (rotini, fusilli, cavatappi)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Optional: Crushed Red Pepper
- Prep: Toast walnuts. Rinse and trim spinach (if needed) Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and minced garlic. Cook just until fragrant. Whisk in the tomato paste, pumpkin, coconut milk until smooth. Add the vegetable broth, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir until combined. Let cook on low for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach. Cook until it lightly wilts.
- Stir in pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts and crushed red pepper, if desired, and serve.
- Pasta: Shell and bowtie pasta can also be used.
- Baby spinach: More spinach can be used if desired. Regular spinach can also be used.
- Coconut milk: substitute Half & half (non-vegan)
- Walnuts: Substitutes: Pecan or almonds.
- Broth: Chicken broth can also be used (non-vegan(
- Non-vegan additional topping: Grated or shredded parmesan cheese